Government to use immunisation program mechanism for covid-19 vaccine distribution



The government plans to use the universal immunisation programme mechanism for distribution of covid-19 vaccines after they receive approval from the drug regulator, union health minister Harsh Vardhan said in a statement to the Lok Sabha on Friday.

“Once available, the coronavirus vaccine distribution follows the same route as for the current practice of vaccines distribution under Universal Immunization Program (UIP),” Vardhan said in a written statement.

Under the UIP mechanism, the government provides several vaccines to infants, children and pregnant women, including the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine, oral polio vaccine, and those against hepatitis B, diptheria, tetanus and rotavirus infections.

However, the government did not give details on how many people will be vaccinated against covid-19 under the UIP. An independent estimate by international brokerage Sanford Bernstein estimated that the government is likely to vaccinate only 30% of the population against the infectious respiratory disease at a cost of $2 billion over three years.

Currently, there are three covid-19 vaccine candidates that are in human trials in India, with Serum Institute of India the furthest with its parallel phase 2 and 3 study of the chimpanzee adenorvirus vector-based vaccine developed by University of Oxford and AstraZeneca plc.

The other two vaccine candidates are Zydus Cadila’s DNA plasmid vaccine and the wholly inactivated vaccine jointly developed by Bharat Biotech International Ltd and Indian Council of Medical Reseach’s National Institute of Virology.

Phase 1 trials of the two vaccine have been completed and these have “excellent safety” profile, while immunogenicity testing and phase 2 clinical trials are in progress, minister of state for health and family welfare Ashwini Kumar Choubey told the Lower House of the Parliament.

Apart from the three vaccine, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) has granted test license permission for manufacturing of covid-19 vaccines to Biological E Ltd, Reliance Life Sciences Pvt Ltd, Aurbindo Pharma Ltd and Gennova Biopharmaceuticals Ltd, Choubey.

Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine is also expected to undergo phase 3 human trials in India, but there has been no official confirmation from the government on it. Developers of the Sputnik V vaccine, Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) on Wednesday said it has tied up with Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd to conduct clinical trials of Sputnik V vaccine in India.

Once the vaccine is approved by Indian regulators, Russia will supply 100 million doses, with deliveries beginning potentially as early as December.

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